Tiffany & Co.
The following 15 lots, manufactured by Patek Philippe and Rolex between 1892 and 2004, were made especially for Tiffany & Co., the celebrated New York-based jeweller and retailer of exclusive luxury items who have adorned many of the leading socialites and stars of the past one and a half centuries.
Originally founded as Tiffany & Young by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young in 1837, the firm has grown from its first outlet in New York's Manhattan district to one of the world's foremost jewellers. Today Tiffany & Co. operates nearly 200 stores in countries ranging from North America and Great Britain to as far as Asia and Australia.
Few jewellers have captured the public imagination to such an extent as Tiffany & Co. The firm's diamonds, rings and necklaces have been worn by members of some of the wealthiest nineteenth and twentieth centuries families of the new world, including the Astors, at one point the richest family in North America thanks to their real estate and hotel empires, and the Vanderbilts, who amassed a fortune in the railroad and shipping industries. Another faithful and most notable patron of Tiffany & Co. was the prominent banker Henry Graves Junior, owner of the to date most valuable Patek Philippe "grand complication" watch ever sold at auction, and of the record-breaking platinum tourbillon chronometer watch number 198'311, lot 88 in this auction.
The house's fame was further immortalized by the 1961 movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" starring Audrey Hepburn, and the song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" sung by Marilyn Monroe in 1953s "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".
Tiffany & Co. is strongly associated with its colour "Tiffany Blue", a specific shade of light blue, very similar to robin's egg blue. Tiffany Blue is a trademarked colour and bears the same number, 1837, on the Pantone Matching System as the foundation year of Tiffany & Co. Exuding the material symbolism of romance, Tiffany Blue has been a very notable hue at celebrity weddings.
Tiffany & Co.'s strong links to the world of horology span almost 160 years, starting with the collaboration between Patek Philippe & Co. dating back to 1849 and a hand shake between Antoine Norbert de Patek, who was to co-found the renowned Swiss watch manufacturer two years later, and Charles Tiffany. The agreement heralded one of the most famous relationships in the world of horology and in 1851, Tiffany & Co. began to officially retail Patek Philippe watches at its New York store, thus becoming Patek Philippe's oldest retailer and, importantly, providing the celebrated manufacturer with a gateway to the new world. By the 1940s, a hundred years after the legendary hand shake, the United States of America had become Patek Philippe's largest and most important market.
A formal agreement covering the import and sale of Patek Philippe watches was inked by the two companies in 1854 and the ties deepened further in 1878 when Tiffany & Co. decided to exit the watchmaking business and sold its Place Cornavin factory in Geneva, set up four years previously, to their Genevan partner. While Jean Adrien Philippe, now in charge following the death of Antoine Norbert de Patek a year earlier, had sought to forge a full partnership with Charles Lewis Tiffany, the latter was concerned at the threat posed to the Swiss watchmaking industry by the rise of machine-made timepieces and resolved to focus on the company's jewellery and silver business. Thereafter, Patek Philippe supplied the jeweller with both movements for Tiffany-branded watches from the Geneva plant and also their own timepieces for sale in the US.
Such was Tiffany's importance that Patek Philippe double signed the wristwatches it sold at the New York store with a Tiffany & Co. signature, a process reserved for only a handful of the firm's selected retailers. To this day, the relationship holds great importance for Patek Philippe. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of their partnership in 2001, Patek Philippe released a special limited edition wristwatch, the reference T 150, which was exclusively available at Tiffany & Co. Only 150 examples of this model each in yellow, white and rose gold were made, featuring the days of the week, month and moon phases. The timepieces were also engraved with a representation of the Place Cornavin factory in Geneva. In a continuation of the partnership, Patek Philippe in early 2008 chose the famous Fifth Avenue Tiffany & Co. store as the location for its first salon in the United States.
Most of the following lots representing Tiffany & Co. and Patek Philippe's famed collaboration include complications, amongst them most notably an 18K pink gold openface split seconds chronograph watch thought to have been presented as a gift by William Keyser, executive of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (lot 173), an 18K gold "World Time" wristwatch with two crowns, ref. 2523/1 (lot 178), and last but not least a highly attractive 18K gold split seconds chronograph wristwatch with Breguet numerals, ref. 1436 (lot 179), the latter two believed to be the only such models bearing the famed retailer signature known to exist to date.
The longstanding cooperation between Tiffany & Co. and the celebrated manufacturer Rolex is characterized by a Submariner wristwatch ref. 1680 from 1978 and the possibly only Daytona Paul Newman stainless chronograph wristwatch ref. 6239, made in 1968, retailed by the American jeweller to appear in public to date, made in 1968 (lots 182 and 183).
Tiffany Timepieces by John Loring, pp. 8-22.
Patek Philippe by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, pp. 25, 36 & 39.